Summer in the City

Boston

For the twenty-third year in a row, we are teaching at the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar, which is being held in Boston at Northeastern University. It is also a special year, because 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the Atlantic Brass Quintet.

Along with our colleagues in the Triton Brass Quintet and John Faieta, a former founding member of the Atlantic Brass Quintet, we are working with fifty students from across the country as well as students from Canada and Chile. The students from Chili are from the University of Talca and their Professors, Natalie and Alex Young, are alumni of the Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar. With help from their University, our scholarship fund and an IndiGoGo campaign, they were able to make the trip. On Thursday, the “Tritantic Brass Ensemble” played a recital of music by Gabrieli, Schumann, Prokoviev, Jobim, Brian Thomas and Wes Hopper. The second half of the concert was a jazz jam session featuring both faculty and students. On Friday, the ten student brass quintets gave their first of two performance classes and that did a fantastic job of tackling some very difficult literature.

We are halfway through the seminar and about to enter into our second week. Tonight, our guest artists Sam Pilafian returns and all of us looking forward to his masterclass and breathing gym class. We owe a lot to Sam and the Empire Brass, since they were our mentors and many of us attended and eventually taught at the Empire Brass Quintet Seminar at Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Two weeks ago, the Atlantic Brass Quintet spent a week rehearsing, performing and recording in New Jersey. We rehearsed and recorded Dmitri Tymoczko‘s “Rube Goldberg Variations” for prepared piano and brass quintet at Princeton University. We premiered it at Rutgers University along with music we have been playing this season. The next day we recorded the Tymoczko piece at Princeton. But with more than a week before the seminar started, I had a “free week” to wander around and visit family and friends.

My free week started with staying with Tim Albright and his family in Croton-on-Hudson. It was great getting to know his wife and son more and on Saturday night I went in with Tim on the commuter train to Times Square to watch the Broadway musicial he is playing in, Amazing Grace. From their website:

AMAZING GRACE is a new original musical based on the awe-inspiring true story behind the world’s most beloved song. A captivating tale of romance, rebellion and redemption, this radiant production follows one man whose incredible journey ignited a historic wave of change.

John Newton (Tony Award® nominee Josh Young), a willful and musically talented young Englishman, faces a future as uncertain as the turning tide. Coming of age as Britain sits atop an international empire of slavery, he finds himself torn between following in the footsteps of his father – a slave trader – or embracing the more compassionate views of his childhood sweetheart (Erin Mackey). Accompanied by his slave, Thomas (Tony Award® winner Chuck Cooper), John embarks on a perilous voyage on the high seas. When that journey finds John in his darkest hour, a transformative moment of self-reckoning inspires a blazing anthem of hope that will finally guide him home.

After that I rented a car and drove to visit my Aunt and cousins in Connecticut, my parents and sister on Cape Cod, my first teacher Jerry Shaw in Middleboro (we played duets!), the parents of a friend in Raynham (I got to see the new Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School), spent some time with Andrew Sorg and got to meet his adorable daughter Charlote, spent some time hanging out with my best friend (since Kindergarden!) Bruce, saw Tower of Power in Lowell, MA, and spent some time in Boston with my brother Kevin. I also caught up with old friends and my sister-in-law. What a week!

It’s always fun spending time in Boston, and this year we have had the pleasure of living in “East Village“, a brand new dormitory on the Northeastern Campus with stunning views of Boston. I’m looking forward to this second week working with these amazing students and our Atlantic Brass Quintet recital on Thursday. We will be premiering a lot of new music, including new arrangements of music by Bach and Mehldau by our newest member, Tom Bergeron, and two works we commissioned – Apex Predators by Catherine Likhuta and Balkan Dances by Kevin Walczyk – in addition to a second performance of Rube Goldberg Variations. The concert is Thursday, August 13th at 7:00pm in Blackman Auditorium at Northeastern University.

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Milnarik Music Initiative Tuba Euphonium Academy

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This week I will be a guest artist at the Milnarik Music Initiative Tuba Euphonium Academy, which is held at Nichols College, in Dudley, MA. Celebrating their eleventh year, the MMI Tuba Euphonium Academy focuses on individual learning and accessibility to the staff and guest artists. The other guest artists this year are Roland Froscher from Switzerland and Donald Palmire from Washington D.C.

I am really looking forward to working with all of the students and artists and especially getting to spend some time with my old friend and former student Mike Milnarik, who is the founder and director of the academy.

On Wednesday, July 8th, I will be giving a masterclass, presenting a clinic entitled “Your Musical Voyage” and playing a solo recital featuring works from my recent recording. Academies like this are great ways for musicians to expand their horizons and for staff and artists to continue to pass on the legacy of music we received from our own teachers.

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Solo Recording Session – January 2015

IMG_4733From January 7th through 9th, I recorded my second solo CD, which will be called “Field Notes: Tuba Music from Iowa”, at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. We recorded there since our new University of Iowa School of Music won’t be opening until Fall 2016 and our interim facilities lack a really great recording space. I played in the ISU Center for Performing Arts Concert Hall a few years ago with the Iowa Brass Quintet and absolutely fell in love with the acoustics. On our recent recital tour leading up to this recording, Alan Huckleberry and I performed her in December of 2014 and were really happy with the sound. We did have a surprise on the first day of the recording when we discovered a recessed lighting fixture in the hall that vibrated sympathetically to loud B-flats and middle C-naturals. We incurred a delay while the problem was fixed but quickly got back on schedule by the end of the first day. We managed to keep a good pace throughout the session, averaging about an hour or recording time for every five minutes of music. Here was our schedule:

Tuesday, January 7th:
9:30 -10:30 am – Arrival, warm up and recording equipment set up.
10:45 – 11:00 am – Soundcheck
11:00 – 3:00 pm  – Delay to resolve lighting fixture buzz (Hello, Jimmy John’s?)
3:15 – 4:00 pm – Recorded I Shall Buy a Black Horse by Jerry Owen ( 3’30”)
4:15 – 7:15 – Recorded Four Paintings by Grant Wood by Barbara York (16′)

Wednesday, January 8th:
10:30 – 11:30 – Warm Up
11:30 – 1:30 – Recorded Sonata en constante evoluçion by Roberto Pintos (12′)
1:30 – 3:00 – Lunch @ Merry Ann’s
3:00 – 5:00 pm – Recorded Theme and Variations (2 tubas and piano) by Jerry Owen (8′)
5:00 – 5:30 pm – Set up and sound check for offstage portion of Intra Muros
5:30 – 7:00 pm – Recorded Intra Muros by Kate Wohlman (9′)

Thursday, January 9th:
10:30 – 11:30 am – Recorded Blue Grace by Claire Sievers (no warm up!)
11:30 – 1:00 pm – Recorded Cheese Spread by John Manning
1:30 – 2:30 – Celebratory lunch at The Rock Restaurant

Overall, the recording session went very well. Despite the intitial buzzing light fixtures, the hall and the piano sounded amazing, and Alan Huckleberry’s playing was impeccable.  The sound engineer, Andy Bove from Bove Audio, is an old friend and has recorded the last few Atlantic Brass Quintet recordings. Along with Andy Rummel, our host at ISU, they served as producers, or “tonemeisters” helping us ensure we covered everything. Andy also played tuba on the Owen trio, which we will be performing, along with Alan at the Midwestern Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference at Bowling Green State University of Ohio in May 2015. Alan and I will also perform I Think I Shall Buy a Black Horse and Four Painting by Grant Wood on that program.

There were some interesting challenges, which I kept track of:

  • I suffered from a really painful ear infection from Dec. 23 to about Jan. 3rd and didn’t play at all during that time.
  • We had below zero weather throughout the recording session, with wind chill factors around -30° F.
  • On the first day, I almost fell down a 10 ft. hill taking a short cut while walking from the parking garage to the Performing Arts Center in the bitter cold.
  • While walking along the shrubs to avoid falling down the hill, I scraped my face and after recording for about two hours, I discovered seven berries from the bush which had fallen into my tuba.

I hope to be able to announce the release of this CD on the Summit Records label later this year. I am very grateful for all of the help I had on this project and will be including these acknowledgements in the liner notes:

  • This recording was made possible with generous support from the University of Iowa’s Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Development, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the School of Music.
  • Joseph Kearney, Associate Dean for Research & Infrastructure, and the Arts
  • David Gier, Director, University of Iowa School of Music, Erich Funke Professor, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Administrative Faculty Fellow, Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Development
  • Dr. Alan Huckleberry, Professor of piano pedagogy and collaborative arts at The University of Iowa
  • Dr. Andrew Rummel, Assistant Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois.
  • Andy Bove, Producer/Audio Engineer at Bove Audio.
  • Tim Schachtschneider, Auditorium Technical Director
  • Jerry Owen, composer
  • Claire Sievers, composer
  • Barbara York, composer
  • Kate Wohlman, composer
  • Roberto Pintos, composer
  • Josh Calkin, Wayne State College, Wayne NE
  • Tom Stein, University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory
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Solo Recital Tour 2014

NEKSIAMOILmapIn preparation for my upcoming recording this January, I have scheduled four recitals in four week in four states.

On November 1st, I gave a masterclass and presented a recital at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska for their annual Octubafest. My former student, Josh Calkin teaches their and on Halloween night, his students presented a studio recital in costume. I had a great time getting to know his students and working with pianist Philip Pfaltzgraff.

On Monday, November 17th, my colleague Alan Huckleberry and I will going to University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory. I’ll be giving a masterclass and a recital at and am looking forward to seeing Tom Stein again, who was my guest for the University of Iowa OkTUBAfest just a few weeks ago.

On Wednesday, November 19th, Alan and I will be heading to Illinois State University at Normal for a recital in the same hall that we will be recording in this January. Andrew Rummel, our host, will also be joining us onstage for a trio for two tubas and piano composed by Jerry Owen.

Finally, on December 2nd, I will give my solo faculty recital at the University of Iowa School of Music. Alan and I will be joined again by Andy Rummel for the Owen trio “Theme and Variations for Two Tubas and Piano”.

This will all culminate in January 2015, when we record this program for my second solo CD, which will be called: “Field Notes:Tuba Music from Iowa”. The complete program is listed below:

I Shall Buy a Black Horse – Czech folk melody arranged by Jerry Owen

Four Paintings by Grant Wood – by Barbara York. Commissioned by John Manning 2012
I. Stone City, Iowa
II. Young Corn
III. American Gothic
IV. Parson Weem’s Fable

Blue Grace – by Claire Sievers

Intra Muros – by Katharine Wohlman

Cheese Spread – by John Manning

Variations for Two Tubas and Piano – by Jerry Owen

Sonata en evoluçion constante – Roberto Pintos. Commissioned by John Manning in 2013

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OkTUBAfest 2014

image-1Last night we kicked off our annual OkTUBAfest here at the University of Iowa with a fantastic recital by our first guest artist, Dr. David Earll from the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. Dr. Earll presented a preview of his very special program of music by Arizona composers which he is about to present throughout Europe next month.

The program included: Tapestry II for Solo Tuba and Tape by James Demars, Canticle for Unaccompanied Tuba by “Bear” Thomas C. Woodson, Baroque ‘n Brass and Lyri-Tech by Eugene Anderson, Low End by Glenn Hackbarth, and Relentless Grooves: Armenia by Sam Pilafian. The concert was innovative, musical and inspiring and wish Dr. Earl the best of luck on his tour.

Tomorrow, on Saturday, October 25th, will we present our annual “Spooky Tubas” concert at the Coralville Public Library at 1pm. Collegium Tubum will be presenting a program of polkas prior to librarian Sara Glenn reading “Baby Danced the Polka” by Karen Beaumont. This year, I composed a new work called “Horton Hears a Tuba”, which is incidental music to be performed during a reading of “Horton Hears a Who” by Theodor Seuss Geisel. We really enjoy dressing up in costumes and playing for the children each year.

On Sunday night, our second guest artist, Tom Stein from the University of Missouri Kansas City will present a solo recital. The program will be: Arabesque for tuba and euphonium by Joseph Turrin with Randil Jeffreys on euphonium, Sonata (Vox Gabrieli) by Stjepan Sulek, Tuba Concerto by Martin Ellerby, Cascades by Allen Vizzutti, Autumn by John Stevens, and Allegro Fuoco by Roland Szentpali. It promises to be an amazing and impressive program.

On Monday night we conclude our OkTUBAfest with a studio recital featuring students performing solos, duos, a quartet and Collegium Tubum. My students have worked very hard this semester and I am very proud of all of them. Please consider joining us for any of these performances and help us celebrate the tenth anniversary of our University of Iowa OkTUBAfest.

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Music for All

I just returned from a trip to Muncie, Indiana where the Atlantic Brass Quintet played for an audience of 1200 screaming teenagers. It was for the Music for All summer music symposium, which took place at Ball State University’s Emens Auditorium.

We were asked to play a 90-minute program without intermission and to make it interactive; talking to the students and explaining each piece as we went. We also invited to young saxophone players up on stage to join us for a performance of Thelonius Monk’s Blue Monk.

It was a fantastic hall and probably the most energetic and appreciative audiences we have ever performed for. One audience member took a vine video showing their amazing enthusiasm.

Here is a slideshow of some photos I took:

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ITEC 2014 – Bloomington, IN

ITEC2014As usual, ITEC 2014 was an amazing and overwhelming experience, for both me and my students. Sam Pilafian called it a “Love Fest”, and the motto, “Where it all began” refers to the fact the first International Tuba and Euphonium Conference was held at Indiana University in 1973.

I was thrilled to be able to bring my students from the University of Iowa. As Collegium Tubum, they performed brilliantly on the last night of the conference and we were all inspired and entertained all week by the many amazing performances.

Collegium Tubum backstage at ITEC Bloomington

It would be hard to single out any favorite concerts, but of the course the big names like Øystein Baadsvik , Steven Mead, Roland Szentpali and David Childs were all incredible. But, my favorite moments of any conference are when I get to reconnect, even if briefly, with old friends. Getting to say hello once again to my old roommates from the Regina ITEC David Silden and Bart Collins, and old friends and classmates from Boston, Craig Knox and Steve Campbell. I was also very proud to see two of my former students, Dr. Kate Wholman and Dr. Chris Dickey presenting at the conference as well.

ITEC 2014 was also my first visit to Indiana University and Bloomington. The campus was beautiful and impressive and it was very special to be attending a conference that returned to “where it all began”.

One of the most memorable moments involved hearing a performance of David Baker‘s sonata for tuba and string quartet by David Saltzman. The performance was impeccable and musical, and although I have owned the piece for years, I had never heard it performed – not even in a recording. Dr. Baker was in the audience and it was an extra treat to be able to shake his hand after the concert and marvel at this man’s talent.

It was very touching to hear Eduardo Nogueroles’ performance of his original composition Harvey’s Tuba. Harvey spent some time in Spain and had a great influence on Eduardo and his students, and it was even more poignant for Carol Phillips, Harvey’s widow, to hear the performance and reconnect with Eduardo.

The inter-connectivity of our close-knit world is truly remarkable, and one of our strengths is the bond we all share and celebrate every two years at ITEC. My students and I look forward to the regional conferences of 2015 and the next ITEC in Knoxville in 2016.

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